Education: Tomlinson Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:06 pm on 16th March 2005.

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Photo of Lord Filkin Lord Filkin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare) (also Department for Work and Pensions) 4:06 pm, 16th March 2005

My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. I thank her for interrupting me. In fact part of the proposal is to ensure that there is good guidance. That is crucial in trying to raise participation at that point.

Part of the discussion on participation was about motivation. It is not simply about the educational offer made but about how you motivate those on the other side of the table to feel that it is worthwhile. That takes us back to our discussions in earlier debates about what does or does not turn off some young people from engaging in education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, talked about the importance of early years, wider social factors and support services. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about looked-after children and some of the disadvantages that they have faced before being looked after. Clearly, the international dimension is valuable.

There is not as much time as I would like to respond to all those points but I take the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that 9 per cent of young people are not in employment, education or training at all. That is one of the hardest targets to crack. Our proposals for a new programme for 14 to 16 year-olds, to which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred, based on entry to employment, will include high levels of advice, guidance and support to tackle non-educational problems, including teenage pregnancy. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for reminding me of that point.

I have just a few minutes to touch briefly on other important issues raised. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, a redoubtable contributor to our education and training debates, raised an eyebrow at the fact that religious education was hardly mentioned. The White Paper has not changed the position on religious education: it remains a statutory requirement up to age 16. The proposals recognise its importance in personal development, and the RE framework introduced by Charles Clarke, to which the right reverend Prelate referred, provides a sound basis for strengthening RE in schools. All that is there, believed in and a crucial part of the agenda. I assure the right reverend Prelate that it is not going away. Sometimes part of the challenge is not to write everything into White Papers because they would become almost unreadable. I know that he understands that.

I was also challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who said that the White Paper did not set out a clear vision of the knowledge, skills and attributes that young people need. I do not believe that that is so. It provides a firm grounding in the basics— English, maths and ICT—a framework of thinking and learning skills, including inquiry and creative thinking, and a body of knowledge and understanding about self, society and the place in the world, through the statutory national curriculum. A wide pedagogic view must be taken rather than a narrow one.

I have already touched on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, about the aim of creating a quarter of a million or so apprenticeships. I could say much more if there was more time. I shall write to him if he wishes.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, asked about reviving the co-curriculum. I can confirm that shortly we will set out our proposals to recognise and embed the value of wider educational and social activities in supporting learning. That could well be in the youth Green Paper, so I ask noble Lords to wait in patience.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked whether resources would be made available to raise the quality of vocational education. I can assure her that resources will be made available; for example, new capital funding for FE announced in today's Budget will improve facilities for vocational education. We are working with employers to set up new sector-based skills academies as national centres of excellence in vocational learning.

The noble Lord, Lord Moser, asked whether this was just one stage in a longer process that would bring together Tomlinson and the White Paper proposals. In essence, he was asking whether, if there was some divergence now, it would come back together later. The White Paper proposals clearly build on Tomlinson's proposals but go further in some respects. They have set the direction and will now enter a crucial phase of implementation. It will allow time for development, careful piloting and review to make sure that we get right the fundamental reforms of which I have spoken.

The White Paper also commits us to carry out a review in 2008 to establish whether anything further is needed to increase the breadth at advanced level. No doubt, that will give us opportunities to reflect on the issues and to see both how the reform programme that we have so far is going and whether it says we need to go further, faster or even wider.

The Government's focus will now be on making it happen. We have been through the process of testing, debating and consulting; it is now about action planning to deliver it. We are developing a clear, robust implementation plan. An extended range of GCSEs in vocational subjects will be available later this year, as will pilots of the upgraded maths and English GCSEs. The first four specialised diplomas will be introduced in 2008, and schools, colleges and training providers in each area will collaborate to deliver the full range of 14 to 19 options. We believe that those reforms will deliver the diverse routes needed to increase participation and provide the skills that our young people and employers need to take society forward. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that that will be substantially different as a result of the changes.

I thank the House and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for a stimulating debate.